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DJ your sweat session

Today’s blogger: Marissa Stephenson, Shape’s assistant fitness editor

My iPod is just as essential to a cardio workout as a sports bra, and of course I push harder when it’s cranking out something with a quick pace like M.I.A.’s “Boyz” as opposed to Peter Frampton’s mellow “Baby I Love Your Way.”

Choosing the right music for a session is as easy as matching a song’s cadence—or its beats per minute (bpm)—to the pace you want to keep. When you handpick songs based on their tempos (instead of just listening to a hodgepodge of tunes you like) your music becomes a motivational tool.

When I put together a running mix, I start with a warm-up song that’s between 80 and 100 bpm. Then I add three or four songs that are 130 bpm—a pace where I’m pushing hard, but can still carry on a conversation—and slip in a few 160-bpm songs for fast-paced intervals. I cap off my playlist with another 80- to 100-bpm tune to cool down.

You can find the bpm for songs in your library by downloading the free software at and or searching for songs on To calculate a song’s bpm on your own, follow this formula: Count the number of beats during a 15- second segment, then multiply that value by four.

If your workout mixes aren’t helping you dig deep, use my ideas to create a new one. Lately I’ve been hooked on songs from Of Montreal and Okkervil River—check them out!



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